Can you believe that with my propensity toward starfucker photos, the one time I met Britney Spears—who turns 29 today—I was without my camera. Curses!
I first heard deafening buzz about Brit's debut single "(Hit Me) Baby, One More Time" at a video shoot at Manhattan's Chelsea Hotel for Tatyana Ali's first single "Daydreamin'" in the summer of 1998. A bunch of record label honchos and music media were yakking about a 16-year-old Mickey Mouse Club alumnus whose Jive Records' launch had the potential to shake up the entire business. Safe to say they were on target: Britney, with Hanson, Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync effectively ignited the era's beloved youth boom.
In September, I was at the Billboard Radio Conference, where an in-room music video channel for attendees aired "Baby" on endless loop; over the course of three days, I must have seen the video 500 times.
A month later, in October, the song hit radio—and I was on it, scoring an interview for my Billboard radio column Oct. 24, 1998, which turned out to be the first major music press Spears got. In January 1999, the song topped the singles chart, spending 10 weeks atop the Eurochart Hot 100 Singles and reaching No. 1 in 18 nations. Boom, indeed, baby!
I met Britney for all of five seconds at her first industry party at B Bar in New York, hosted by Jive. Folks were already clawing at her for attention—and I was able to hastily mention that I had interviewed her for Billboard. She responded with a blank stare. Given the mob scene that has never faded to this day, it's no wonder the girl lost her fucking mind.